The Dominican Republic’s political and economic stability is at a crucial juncture. The Odebrecht corruption scandal ignited a spark and transformed the way Dominican citizens view corruption, the government, and President Medina. The Green movement embodies the evolution of public perceptions and provides insights into the country’s future.
A recent analysis of Dominican public perception regarding the Odebrecht corruption scandal revealed that existing social tensions associated with corruption, impunity, and security have elevated social risk levels across the country. It also revealed that Dominican’s perceptions associated with corruption have evolved. Corruption is no longer viewed as a political, legal, or economic problem. It has become a human rights issue. What was once accepted as a way of life and understood as part of the culture, is now perceived as an attack on fundamental rights, principles, and most importantly dignity. Other findings link President Medina to corruption, however, he is also viewed as a critical piece to allow or stop impunity.
The report’s findings and recommendations were widely distributed and presented to business leaders, civil society, and the media. It warns that unaddressed social risk will lead to intense public scrutiny, increased civil unrest, deteriorating security and economic conditions, and possible political upheavals. Moreover, it points out that choosing to ignore or engage with traditional methods will simply fuel social indignation and increase the growing divide between elected representatives and the people’s demands.
The government’s response to the Green Movement has been to follow standard procedures. It accused activists of subverting the movement, delivered food to protest locations, which occurred in San Francisco and Azua, increased the minimum wage, and incarcerated selected individuals related to the Odebrecht scandal. Unfortunately, these measures have proven ineffective. Continued analysis, conducted by ENODO global, disclosed that these measures had no significant impact on public sentiment, fail to address underlying drivers of unrest, and most importantly, continue to increase social tensions.
In its current form, the Green movement is not a threat to the government. Rather, it provides President Medina an opportunity to engage the population in a meaningful way. However, if President Medina choses to remain on the current course the Green movement’s purposes could become undermined by activists or radicals with a truly anti-government agenda. If this happens, the Dominican Republic could follow in the path of Brazil or Venezuela.
The good news is that Dominicans have not yet lost their faith. The Dominican saying, “Hope is the last thing lost” has proven true. Dominican’s believe and hope that President Medina can lead them from protests and unaddressed social grievances to a meaningful and effective dialogue. What will be President Medina’s response? Will political and economic leaders seize this opportunity to produce major political and institutional reforms and restore hope of Dominicans? Only time will tell.
The Odebrecht Scandal provides a unique opportunity for President Medina to address social concerns like corruption, unemployment, and indignation. He can address specific grievances, especially those tied to the appearance of corruption, by appointing credible and independent judges in the high courts, strengthening the party system, and ending impunity of elites. With action, he can garner support, not just from individuals within the Green Movement, but across multiple party lines. More importantly, he can re-connect with the core identities of the populace to create an enduring relationship centered on dignity that delivers true social and economic progress.